How can Ayurveda—a medical system that’s more than 5,000 years old—contribute anything of value to sports medicine, a discipline that didn’t emerge as a medical specialty until the late twentieth century?
As it turns out, Ayurveda’s holistic approach to musculoskeletal imbalances serves as an excellent complement to conventional sports medicine, for both rehabilitation, and, perhaps even more important, prevention of sports injuries. Like the Ayurvedic healers of old, today’s sports medicine professionals recognize that sports injuries and athletic performance involve not just bones and muscles but, rather, the whole person. Their increasing reliance on the services of dietitians, psychologists, trainers, and body workers to complement or minimize surgical, pharmaceutical, and other conventional medical interventions reflects what Ayurvedic practitioners have always known: Many diverse factors—from the patient’s genetic endowment and state of training and nutrition to his her age, mental stability, environmental stresses, and economic circumstances—determine how successfully that patient recovers from an athletic injury. Ayurveda offers comprehensive and detailed studies of these factors and provides specific advice on how to optimize wellness in each area.
Ayurveda was ahead of its time particularly in looking beyond the body to the all-important role of the individual’s psyche in the preventing and healing of injuries and in increasing physical prowess. Its focus on relieving stress and developing concentration taps into the proven power of the mind to overcome physical limitations. Ayurveda also offers specific management protocols for persons debilitated by disease that can be effectively applied to those who are recuperating from sports injuries.
As more and more people adopt fitness regimes, cases of muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries are becoming increasingly widespread. Ayurveda offers a number of gentle yet powerful remedies that can be used as either primary or supportive therapies for orthopedic problems. Among them is marma point therapy, an approach similar to Chinese acupuncture that activates various pressure points called marmas to heal imbalances and support strength. Ayurvedic experts have also developed many herbal formulations that can hasten recuperation after a surgery, optimize rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries, and help boost performance levels.
These formulations were widely used by ancient warriors to enhance their physical prowess, speed recovery from injuries, and sustain their energy during long, arduous battles. Their Sanskrit names—Mahakashaya Brimhaneeya Dasaimani(“muscle builder”), Jeevaneeya Dasaimani (Vitalizer),Balakara Dasaimani(“promotes strength”), and Sramahara Dasaimani(promotes cheer)—speak for their therapeutic properties. These formulas, which are thought to achieve their effects by stimulating beneficial enzymes and balancing hormones, represent a safe, natural alternative to steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
Even though good diet cannot guarantee success, poor diet can certainly undermine training. Ayurvedic practitioners consider eight factors when formulating diets for clients who want to strengthen muscles and build stamina. These include the client’s genetic makeup, the nature of the foods to include, and the proper way to process and combine them, the right quantity to consume, and the best time and place to eat them to advance a particular client’s performance goals.
This deep knowledge of restorative and rejuvenative nutritional regimes, together with their sophisticated understanding of the mind-body relationship, suggests that Ayurvedic practitioners can go a long way toward helping orthopedists and other sports medicine professionals develop a more natural, effective, and individualized approach to maximizing not only the fitness and vigor of the people they treat, but also their satisfaction with the provider’s services.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease.